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… And A Maid

November 2023
1min read

The indefatigable Mr. Howe also recalls another great epitaph, which will perhaps amuse the Latin scholars among our readers. It is a parody by Longfellow of the one Dr. Samuel Johnson composed for Oliver Goldsmith: “ Nullum quod tetigit non ornavit .” Longfellow called his, “Epitaph on a Maid of All Work:”

Hic jacet ancilla Quae omnia egit; Et nihil letigit Quod non fregit.

“It has been stylish, even during his lifetime, to laugh at Longfellow as a linguist,” concludes Mr. Howe, “but I think that translating ‘maid of all work’ as ‘ancilla quae omnia egit’ is a tour de force that Dean Swift himself could not have excelled.”

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